As the end of the school year approaches with students still learning from home, the Laramie Montessori Charter School brought its teachers, students and their families somewhat closer with a “Car Line Celebration.”

The event gave Montessori’s kids the chance to see their teachers in person, and vice versa. Director and principal Mark Crawford said it was an important occasion for adding a bit more normal to everyone’s lives.

“This is the first time in all our lifetimes that social – well, physical distancing has really been mandated,” Crawford said. “It’s been hard on families with young kids, it’s been hard on children. Our sixth grade class, which was an outstanding class – much like a senior class, didn’t get that end-of-year experience. We hope that things like today would kind of help. … We want our kids to have these experiences even when school’s closed.”

Students also brought in funds raised by the school’s annual Read-A-Thon. One student cried out “Mark, I have my reading log!” as her family pulled up to the sidewalk, waving it through the window.

“It’s their school,” Crawford said. “We do a first-name basis. Not that respect is not important, but they are our most important stakeholder. (In) our multi-age classrooms, our older students are constantly teaching and modeling the younger students.”

Montessori’s approach to the challenges presented by recent shutdowns was a “blended-learning” plan.

“A lot of schools have mainly done asynchronous, but we’ve done a lot of synchronous learning and Zoom sessions – and chances for kids to have dance parties and eat lunch with their teachers because we know that they need that social connection,” Crawford said.

“We have 24 students, we meet each of them for a half-hour once a week, individually,” said Jenny Palm, upper elementary teacher. “Then we have two whole-class groups per week when we do different activities with the kids. … It’s such a joy to be able to see them every day and make it somewhat normalized for them.”

This year’s Read-A-Thon revenue has yet to be tallied, but last year’s program brought in over $5,000. These funds usually go toward outdoor education and field trips, Crawford said.

As Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon prepares new orders to ease some shutdowns, Montessori is looking forward to business as usual next fall – and intends to continue parts of its distance-learning plan, especially to stay connected to parents.

“We fully expect that in August we’re gonna start school back up and we hope to have a full school year,” Crawford said.

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